Jake

Keeping in touch with friends

The countdown to the end of exams is on!  With the summer holidays being just around the corner it’s a time for excitement, the making of plans, and getting ready for some long summer days of much needed R&R.   However, the prospect of leaving this glorious city for a few months and saying farewell to uni friends is a cause of worry for many, and you may be concerned about missing them.  As a final year student myself, the thoughts of missing and losing touch with friends are more prominent than ever.

Having spent every summer away from the UK and doing study abroad in Canada during my third year, I’ve learnt that staying in touch with friends is super easy and that you needn’t fear about losing friends.

We’re told often that long-distance communication is easier than ever, and that until only a few decades ago the ability to have a real-time conversation with someone on the other side of the globe was pure science fiction.  Today, social media lets us keep track on what’s going on in our friends’ lives across oceans and the internet lets us chat for free with anyone across the world (except China and North Korea of course, and interestingly Bangladesh and Tajikistan according to Wikipedia).  This is all very obvious, and if you can sustain a good social life in 2017 without Facebook then I’m honestly amazed.

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But the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that it’s okay not to stay in regular contact with friends and that you shouldn’t be scared of losing touch.  One of my concerns when moving to Canada for my study abroad was that my wonderful UoM friends would drift away and that things would be different when I came back.  But at the same time I wasn’t willing to spend loads of time nattering with friends back home – I wanted to dive head-first into my new life in Canada, and focus on meeting new people, trying new things and travelling.  I didn’t want to be held back by spending evenings tapping away on FB chat.

By keeping busy and spending a lot of time with people, I kept the feeling of home-sickness (or Manchester-sickness) at bay – I was having too much fun to be sad!  I did occasionally Skype a friend back home for a catch-up or if I was feeling down, but in all honestly this was never as good as a proper chat face-to-face.  Don’t feel weird if your Skype conversation feels a bit stilted or awkward – how often in real life are you staring at your friend and devoting 100% of your attention to them for a prolonged period?  Normally you have natural breaks, look away, have a drink etc.  You’re not forced to make constant conversation!  Also, as great as FB is for maintaining connections, I find being sat there tapping away pretty boring – it’s no match for a real chat and you’ve probably got more interesting things going on.

When I got back to Manchester it was just like old times – if you really are good friends with someone it’ll take way more than a few months or a year to change that!  If anything, the lack of constant contact made the reunions extra special and I definitely didn’t feel like I missed out.

However, my worries about leaving Canada were about 10 times greater than those about leaving Manchester.  When flying out of MAN airport I knew that I’d be back in less than a year, but when would I be going back to Canada anytime soon?  As well as making some wonderful Canadian friends I’d also gained amazing friendships with people from all over the world, and thought of losing these was heart-breaking.

Thankfully, this last year in Manchester has proven to me that I didn’t have to be scared, and that things work out for the best.  A group of us met in Copenhagen this February for a mini-holiday, and it was just like old times!  Within an hour we joking, chatting and cuddling up on the sofa, and it felt like only a week since we’d seen each other.  I feel fully assured that I’ll be able to sustain my friendships in future, even if it’s many years before I see people again.  Eventually I’m sure you’ll cross paths with many old friends again.DSCN2081.JPG

(A photo of me and my Vancouver friends having a reunion in Copenhagen)

Of course, there are probably some people who I won’t see again and some friendships will have to be confined to memory.  But I don’t let this get me down as it’s natural for friends to drift apart as the times change as well as people, but I’m always immensely grateful for the good times we had and the things I gained from the friendship.  I feel that most relationships are quite transient and that’s quite beautiful in itself, because as well as drifting away friends in life we can always make new ones and become closer to others.

Wow, I’ve deviated quite a lot from my initial blog idea to talk about how easy it is to stay in touch with people.  This is getting quite philosophical now – talking about the nature of relationships and how times change.   Ultimately what I want to say is don’t worry about losing touch and that good friendships take a lot to diminish, but that it’s good to accept that good things come to an end and that we should appreciate them for what they were.  Namaste.

 

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Manchester – The Capital of the North

‘This is Manchester, we do things differently here’ – Anthony H. Wilson

Coming to Manchester to attend an Open Day soon?  Well, not only is this a good opportunity to check out our wonderful University, but it’s also a super chance to explore the greatest, boldest, and most fabulous city in the North!

Mancunians are famously proud of their city, culture, and football club, and having lived here for a few years it’s easy to see why.  Not only is Manchester one of the UK’s most culturally diverse, exciting and famous city (narrowly beaten by London), but it has sights and activities to suit all tastes.  With wild nights out until sunrise, a world full of cuisines, and a multitude of museums and more, Manchester has something for everyone.

If you have time on your Open Day, there are loads of things you can see and do within walking distance of the University to have a taste of what Manchester has on offer.And_on_the_sixth_day,_God_created_Manchester

If food’s your thing

Foodies flock from all over to sample the one million and one different cuisines available in Manchester, so be sure to treat your taste buds when you visit!

The heart of Manchester’s South East Asian community is found in Chinatown, a few minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre.  For top-notch Vietnamese food, I recommend I Am Pho for their delicious noodle soup.  Or if you have a sweet tooth and fancy a twist, get a green tea or lychee dessert from Wasabi.

Closer to campus you can find the famous Curry Mile where you can find flavours from all over the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent.  As well as offering food for all tastes there are also options for all budgets, from mouth-watering £2.50 shawarma from Atlas to elaborate Indian banquets at Mughli.

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Shopaholics’ Anonymous

If you’re keen for a shopping experience that takes you beyond the usual chain shops, the Northern Quarter has an eclectic selection of boutiques, independent cafes and record stores.  As Manchester’s beating bohemian heart, it’s also home to some of the most avant-garde bars, underground music spaces and galleries.

NQ market

If you only have an hour or so, I whole-heartedly recommend a quick tour of Affleck’s Palace.  In this multi-cultural bazaar, you can browse a marvellous mix of alternative fashions and knick-knacks, and experience the indie-vibes that make Manchester so Manchester.

Feed your brain in Manchester’s museums

Another reason why Manchester is the best city ever is the vast number of free museums and art galleries found across town.  The Museum of Science and Industry is a must-see if you’d like to find out why Manchester is such a hub of scientific excellence and innovation, with fascinating exhibits on how Manchester became the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Alan Turing’s computers, and graphene.

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Avid football fans should consider a visit to the National Football Museum near Victoria Train Station – not only can you learn some fun facts about the city’s renowned teams, but you can also gain a fascinating insight into the history and global impact of the beautiful game.

The University’s own Manchester Museum is an award-winning institution situated in a beautiful Neo-Gothic building in the heart of campus.  If you only have a short break in the day between classes this is the perfect place to ogle at the museum’s beautiful collection of natural history and anthropological artefacts.  Get involved with their hands-on activities and expert talks, and check out my favourite exhibit – the frogs!  (They’re so cute and colourful.)

MCR art gallery

If you’re more of a da Vinci than a Darwin, then the Manchester Art Gallery has a number of world-class collections showcasing the work of some of the world’s most renowned artists.  Here you can view classical masterpieces as well as modern art, and also admire the work of Manchester’s own L. S. Lowry.

Closer to campus you can find the University’s own Whitworth Art Gallery for an eclectic variety of artwork and avant-garde exhibitions.  Its café is also a beautiful spot for lunch with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lush greenery of Whitworth Park.  Their salads and cakes are absolutely delicious too!

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If the main UoM campus doesn’t sate your appetite for stunning Neo-Gothic architecture, then the John Rylands Library on Deansgate Road is a must see.  A veritable cathedral of books with its lofty ceilings, exquisite stained-glass and dark wood bookshelves, it’s not surprising that this is one of Manchester’s top visitor attractions.  As a student at UoM you’ll have full access to the Wi-Fi and resources available here – I like to study in the main reading room and pretend I go to Hogwarts!

See you soon!

An Open Day here can be so much more than just looking around campus.  Take the time to explore Manchester, discover its eccentricities, and get excited for a jam-packed few years studying in this wonderful city!

 

How to make the most out of your open day

Ah Open Days – an exciting time for any prospective student.  I remember when I was an excitable teen taking trains across the country, swimming in free pens and comparing the complimentary buffets provided by different uni’s.  Not only is an open day an exciting time and a great excuse to travel, but they’re also the best way for you to make a well-informed decision on which course and uni is best for you.  This decision could be the biggest you ever make, so make sure you make the most of your open days by following this advice.

Planning and preparation – most universities will release a timetable of events taking place throughout the day, so make sure you read this and come up with an itinerary that best suits your interests.  Usually there’s loads of stuff going on, so get an in-depth insight of studying and living at the uni by attending a couple of subject talks, a campus tour and a finance talk.  Give yourself some time to explore the city and student accommodation too – you’re going to be living there for at least three years as well as studying!  Try to imagine the campus on a wet day in February – everywhere looks good in the sun and in prospectuses.openday

Getting a map in advance of the day too will let you see if these events will take place close to each other, or if you’ll need a good chunk of time to get between venues.  This will also be essential if you need to find the university when driving or getting a train in.  Many larger universities run shuttles to the different campuses and sometimes even to the train and coach stations.

Come up with your own list of questions you want answered to help your decision-making.  Feel free to pick the brains of the academic staff to help you learn about the courses and styles of learning – but remember some of them might have their own agenda when answering you!  Also they might have a narrow view of just the particular module they teach.

Alternatively, the student ambassadors assisting in various events will be a great way to find more objective views from a student’s perspective, such as how much they enjoy the courses, what life’s like at the uni, and tips for picking accommodation (shout out to UoM Campus Tours team! #PurpleAndProud).  It’s definitely worth asking as many people as you can for their opinions as everyone has different tastes and experiences.

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Good things to know include:

  • How many hours a week will I probably be working?
  • How many contact hours are there?
  • How big are the classes?
  • What opportunities are there for you to broaden and deepen your understanding of the subject?
  • Are there industrial/research placements or study abroad on offer? Where are they and how are they organised?
  • How are you assessed?
  • Is there much to do around campus? Societies, Students’ Union events, sports etc…
  • What accommodation suits you best? Which are the party residences and which are quieter?
  • Do I prefer a bustling city uni or a more relaxed campus-based/small town one?

To wrap up then, remember to make a plan, ask looooads of questions, see as much as you can, and have fun.  Good luck with your decision-making!

 

Give It Don’t Bin It

With summer quickly approaching and house moves coming up for many, it’s time for another of the hugely successful Give It Don’t Bin It campaigns. As a student who has loved living in Manchester for years, this is definitely one of the easiest ways students can give to charity, help reduce their carbon footprint, and give back to the local community.

Give It Don’t Bin It is an annual collaboration between Manchester University, MMU, the logo_newsarticleCouncil and charities to encourage students to recycle and donate their unwanted items to the British Heart Foundation and foodbanks as they pack up for the summer. Last year, students donated a tremendous 124 tonnes to the charity which raised £230,723 towards lifesaving treatments and research.  This fantastic amount helped to fund 43 Defibrillators, 38 CPR kits, 4 Heart Start Groups, 13 British Heart Foundation Shops and 51 Research Grants!

GIDBI_Food_transparentNot only does Give It Don’t Bin It make a great contribution to medical research, but it also means that hundreds of tonnes of unwanted possessions are recycled instead of going to landfill.  In addition to helping the environment this saved the city £50,000 in landfill costs in 2015.

Together, long-term residents, landlords and Manchester Leadership Programme students contribute hundreds of volunteer hours to pack and deliver charity donation bags and blue and brown recycling bags to students across the city.

All you have to do is but your unwanted things in the British Heart Foundation bags and drop it off at one of the donation banks found all over Manchester.  You can donate almost any clean and reusable items, such as small electronics, clothes, books, shoes and CDs.  A single bag could be worth over £14, so please think twice before throwing away your old possessions!GIDBI_Bag2_transparent

Give It Don’t Bin It packs are delivered to most student neighbourhoods, and to all students in Halls of Residences so keep your eyes peeled for yours. From drop off points in halls for British Heart Foundation to dates for extra recycling collections in student areas – the packs tell you what you can donate and what you  recycle and (importantly) how.  But, if you’re keen to make a start and yours hasn’t arrived you can find all the information on the Give it Don’t Bin it website

Let’s see what amazing things we can achieve this year!

Tips on leaving your house secure over summer

Leaving Manchester for the summer?  Remember that empty student homes can be tasty targets for burglars, and homes without security measures are five times more at risk of burglary than those with security measures.   Here’s an exciting list of some things you can do to make sure you make your house is as theft-proof as possible this summer.  Most of these are very obvious so I’ve tried to make it as non-patronising as possible, so please bear with me – you might have missed something out!

  • Double-check that all doors and windows are locked, as well as gates to the back of your property.
  • Secure bikes inside.
  • Make sure that you can’t see valuables from ground floor windows.
  • Take your most valuable items away with you over summer, pay to keep them in storage or give them to a friend who’s sticking around over summer.
  • Consider a timer switch to turn on your lights if you’re going on holiday for a short period
  • Hide all keys and make sure they’re not near the letterbox.
  • Ask a friendly neighbour to keep an eye on your property.
  • Avoid raving about your holiday plans on social media – this is an easy way for burglars to see that your house will be unoccupied!
  • Cancel unnecessary mail so there’s not an obvious pile of letters and junk mail underneath your letterbox.
  • Ask the landlord to trim your hedges so your house is easily seen from the street, and request automatic outside lighting.
  • All appliances and heating turned off
  • Make sure bins are emptied and put back (bins left out will not only annoy neighbours but are a sign no –one is about!)

Have a safe and happy summer!

My Heritage Hero: Alan Turing

Alan Turing is one of the world’s most important historic figures as well one of The University’s greatest icons.  As a pioneering mathematician, computer scientist and theoretical biologist, he is one of the most accomplished scientists of all time and his work has affected everyone alive today.  Alan Turing truly represents the Manchester spirit and history with its’ commitment to great example of scientific excellence.

Cracking the Enigma Code

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Turing’s most famous work was carried out during World War II in Bletchley Park, the home of Britain’s efforts to break German codes encrypted using Enigma machines.  To reveal the messages in the codes, Turing led a team of cryptanalysts to develop a codebreaking machine.  This became renowned as the world’s first computer and heralded Turing as the parent of Computer Science.  Most historians agree that his inventions shortened the war by at least two years and saved over 14 million lives, making him one of the 20th Century’s biggest heroes.

A little known fact about Turing is that as well as being a mathematical mastermind, he was also a high-level athlete, and occasionally ran 64 km from Bletchley to London.

After the war, Turing moved to London where he continued to expand his research into computers and produced a paper detailing the first designs of a stored-program computer.

Creator of Artificial Intelligence

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Turing came to the Victoria University of Manchester in 1948 where he was appointed Reader in the School of Mathematics, and soon became Deputy Director of its Computing Machine Laboratory.  During his time in Manchester, he produced the Manchester Mark 1 – the first stored-program computer ever made.

Whilst in Manchester, Turing conducted some of the first mathematical investigations into Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), which describes a man-made machine that can perceive its environment, learn, and be able to problem solve.  Turing’s theory of computation states that a machine capable of switching between simple symbols, such as the binary ‘0’ and ‘1’, could simulate any mathematical deduction or process of formal reasoning.  This theory, in addition to other discoveries in cybernetics and neurology, led researchers to hypothesise about creating an electronic brain based on binary code.

AI raises many questions about thought, how we define intelligence, and the differences between human and digital consciousness.  To address these Turing created the Turing test, where a machine can be said to be intelligent and “think” if a human in conversation with it couldn’t tell if it was human or not.

Over half a century later, A.I. is still a subject of much debate and controversy, but the Turing test continues to be a significant factor in these discussions.

Today, A.I. has hundreds of applications, such as in image recognition, search engines like Google, and even electronic gaming.  A.I. technology is advancing all the time and will have a far greater presence in our lives in the future, as it has the potential to be used in self-driving cars, medical diagnosis, finance, and more.

Persecuted for his sexuality

Just before Christmas in 1951, Turing was walking down Oxford Road when he met Arnold Murray outside what is now the Dancehouse Theatre.  They later entered into a relationship together, which was then revealed by the police whilst investigating a burglary into Turing’s house.  Homosexuality was outlawed at the time and both Turing and Murray were charged with “gross indecency”.

Murray was given a conditional discharge; however, Turing was forced to choose between prison or hormonal treatment to reduce his libido.  He chose the hormonal treatment, which left him impotent and deformed his body, in what is commonly referred to as “chemical castration”.

In addition to this humiliation, he was banned from entering the US, had his security clearance removed, and was forbidden to continue his work for the British signals intelligence agency (GCHQ).

Suicide

Turing’s housekeeper found him dead on 8 June 1954, after he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning.  A half-eaten apple was found beside his bed where he died, leading many to speculate that this was how he ingested the final dose.

Official pardon

In 2012, an online petition for the Government pardon of Alan Turing’s conviction gained over 37,000 signatures.  John Leech, MP for Withington, campaigned for years to pass the bill through Parliament and eventually the Queen pronounced Turing’s pardon in 2014.

Legacy

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Following criticism that it was unjust to pardon just Turing out of the thousands of others who were punished under the same laws for their sexualities, a bill was passed on 31 January 2017 that pardoned all people similarly convicted.  This part of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 is known informally as the ‘Alan Turing Law’.

Tributes to Alan Turing can be found across the world.  A statue of Turing holding an apple is situated in Sackville Park in between the University of Manchester’s Sackville Street Building and Canal Street.   This commemorates Turing as ‘Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice’, at it reads on the plaque.  In 2007, the University of Manchester’s Alan Turing Building was completed as a new home for the School of Mathematics and parts of the School of Physics and Astronomy, where world-leading research continues seven decades after Turing started his work there.

turing building

To mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, 2012 was designated as the Alan Turing Year with celebrations and tributes across the world.  Manchester City Council worked with the LGBT Foundation to launch the Alan Turing Memorial Award, acknowledges contributors in the fight against homophobia in Manchester.

Top City Centre Study Spaces

As exam dates and coursework deadlines approach you’ll probably find yourself spending more and more time at a desk studying.  This could be in the library, at home or in the Learning Commons; however it’s also a good idea to escape campus now and again and treat yourself to a change of scenery.

Learning in different environments can improve our abilities to retain and recall information, and spending time in a variety of locations can help refresh our weary minds.  Manchester city centre has an amazing selection of study spaces, including cosy cafes, trendy bars and historic libraries, so why not explore and give some a try?

Here are 5 of my favourite city centre study spaces:

  1. North Tea Power

36 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LA

One of Northern Quarter’s most highly acclaimed coffee shops, NTP is a favourite haunt of young-professionals and students.  With award-winning espresso, a great deli and a chic, relaxed atmosphere, this space is great for enjoying the classic Northern Quarter culture whilst making the most of their speedy Wi-Fi, plentiful power sockets and cosy corners to work in.  The large workbenches are a great place to mingle with other coffee lovers and get motivated by those around you.  If you’re hooked by their delicious teas and coffees you can by the beans in bulk too.

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  1. Central Library

St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD

As well as being one of Manchester’s most iconic buildings, the beautiful Central Library is positioned in the heart of the city, next door to the Manchester Town Hall.  Here, you can browse the UK’s second largest public book collection, have a quiet study session beneath the Pantheon-like dome of the Great Hall, and make use of their extensive archives.  There are miles and miles of book shelves both above and below ground, and also  a huge selection of fiction which you might struggle to find in your typical academic library.

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  1. Fig and Sparrow

20 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JA

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F&S is a cute coffee shop tucked away on Northern Quarter’s Oldham Street, and offers artisan coffee, loose-leaf tea and a big selection of tasty treats, as well as selling teapots, candles and other trinkets.  F&S can feel quite intimate due to its small size, but it’s also well-lit and airy, and its large tables which you can share with others, give the place a nice warm community vibe which I find very motivating.

  1. John Rylands Library

150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EHpic4

John Ryland’s in one of the University’s finest cultural assets and is also one of Manchester’s architectural highlights.  Built in the late 19th century, you can marvel at the Neo-Gothic building style whilst being nestled amongst dark wood bookshelves, red carpets and ancient texts.  The main reading room is a beautiful space illuminated with stained glass windows and old-fashioned lamps, and captures a quiet tranquillity that’s a wonderful contrast to the hustle and bustle of Deansgate Road outside.

In this cathedral-like atmosphere it’s easy to imagine that you’re centuries in the past, however the omnipresent UoM Wi-Fi and aroma of espresso in the entrance hall make the most out of old and new.

During your study breaks, explore the Harry Potter-esque halls and check out the exhibitions spread about the library, which often cover art, literature, linguistics and history.  My top tip is to come here in the week – tourists flock here on the weekends!

  1. Last, but not least: Foundation Coffee House

Sevendale House, Lever St, Manchester M1 1JB

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FCH is my favourite study spot.  Its minimalistic décor, spacious layout and big windows provide plenty of natural light and lots of space to spread out your notes. Its chilled-out music also really helps getting my brain into study mode.

FCH also offer a wonderful range of coffees, cakes, smoothies, sandwiches and breakfasts, with vegan and gluten-free options  – I’m a big fan of their brownies.  FCH combines the airy lightness of an art gallery with cosy coffee shop sounds and aromas, producing a fantastic study space which you can enjoy with all your senses.